When people hear about the drama department they wonder what it’s like as an actor on stage or what it’s like to be a director. What most people don’t think about is all of the things that go on behind the scenes to make those shows look the way the do. Tech and Stage Crew are key components to any of the shows performed. Most people don’t take time to ask, what actually happens in Tech and Stage Crew.
Casting and directing a show here at Mount Saint Joe, especially in high school takes a lot of work from both the director, and the cast. I got the chance to interview the Mount’s drama director, Mr. Michael Hartsfield, as well as senior Brennan Hyde, an experienced cast member in the shows. I was able to get from them both angles of producing a show at Mount Saint Joseph from the side of casting, directing and acting.
Auditions are the real start of the process, when director meets actor. Here at Mount Saint Joseph, Mr. Hartsfield both directs the shows themselves, and casts the actors. That is a lot of responsibility right there, having to make all of the casting decisions in a short amount of time, not to mention the fact that Mr. Hartsfield doesn’t cut anyone from casting, and everyone gets to participate.
When it comes to auditions, Mr. Hartsfield looks for certain things from his actors, varying from show to show, play and musical. So if you’re a student looking to audition for one of our shows, you’d better pay close attention. Preparedness is a top quality that our director looks for in an audition. He wants to see people that have done their research on the show, and that have practiced their audition, whether it be a song or a monologue. There are also some general things that Mr. Hartsfield wants to see on stage. Strong projection of their voice, personality on stage, clarity, and for a musical; obviously, he wants to hear their singing abilities.
Brennan Hyde had never done any real shows, and only began his career here at the Mount. He has since risen in the ‘ranks’ in theater, and has landed himself a number of strong roles, including the part of Tony in “West Side Story.” Brennan has been in the driver seat of a lead, so it’s safe to say, he knows his way around the stage. Brennan had very similar things to say, despite these being separate interviews. Brennan does his research on the show he’s going to audition for, and finds out the theme. For musicals, Brennan says it depends on the musical, but he makes sure to research them, too, so he can pick the best song for his vocal range, as well as the range of a part he wants to get.
A question or topic that has come up when it comes to casting decisions is awarding roles based on your grade level. The concept comes from students wanting ‘a chance’ to have a bigger role, before they leave high school. According to Mr. Hartsfield, that is a “constant critique of…every high school director in the country.” Mr. Hartsfield also says he does not factor grade level into his casting decisions, but he does; however, use it as a neck and neck tiebreaker for a part. When Brennan Hyde was asked if he believed Mr. Hartsfield made casting decisions based on grade level, he also disagreed. The same story came up in both interviews about another student, Patrick Scott, who was cast as Ren, the lead in “Footloose,” when he was ‘only a freshman.’ Scott is now a junior at MSJ, and has since also played the part of Riff in “West Side Story.” With that in mind, it seems that the process is based on the audition itself, with grade level being a minor aspect of the decision-making process.
After Mr. Hartsfield has created his cast list, the first thing he does is call the entire cast for a read-through of the show. This is done to familiarize the cast with the show and the feeling of it, before they get on stage. This also builds chemistry between the cast members so they become accustomed to who they will be working with. After that, the process of rehearsing a play is quite simple: walk and act through the scenes chronologically on stage to practice and get the blocking down. Musicals; however, can be quite a different story, with the order in which the scenes are practiced can be completely out of order. When Brennan was practicing as Tony in “West Side Story,” he spent a lot of time reading his part, and understanding what his character was going through. Brennan says it wasn’t a difficult transformation for him, although he had some trouble pretending to be as “sad” as the character.
The final piece of the drama puzzle before the actual show is Tech Week. Tech Week is the week leading right up to opening night where everything is supposed to come together – the sound, microphones, actors, major set changes, and stage lights. The biggest trouble that Mount Saint Joseph has had in recent years, is the sound system. Mr. Hartsfield calls it the “bane of our existence” for MSJ shows. When MSJ does musicals; however, there are even more things that need to be accounted for, tested, and incorporated into the show: the pit band and the singers, and managing the sound for both.
At the end of the week, Mr. Hartsfield and his stage and tech crew always manage, and the show is ready to be put on. So when MSJ puts on their show each night, where is Mr. Hartsfield? Is he back stage helping the stage crew? Is he at home taking his well-earned nap? No.
Mr. Hartsfield is still hard at work, stressing it out up in the tech booth “calling the show.” That means Mr. Hartsfield has a walkie-talkie and is still directing, in a way. Instead of cueing the actors, Mr. Hartsfield gives cues to the stage crew in the wings (off to the sides of the stage) to make important set or curtain changes. Being in the tech booth, Mr. Hartsfield also calls cues for sound changes, lighting, and specific sound effects they need.
As you can tell, there is a plethora of moving parts that go into each of the productions here at St. Joe, thanks to Mr. Hartsfield, his crew, and of course, all of the talented actors that participate. Another special thanks to my interviewees, Mr. Hartsfield and Brennan Hyde, for their time and a bit of an inside scoop.
Christopher Kelleher is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.
Mount Saint Joe has never failed to give us amazing plays and musicals. This spring, the drama club performed the 1957 Broadway show West Side Story. Junior Brennan Hyde played a lead role as Tony with sophomore Patrick Scott playing his best friend Riff. Riff is the leader of the gang, the Jets, and deals with the feud between the Jets and the Sharks. The Sharks are a gang full of Puerto Rican boys led by Bernardo, played by senior Ezra Melchor.
While the two gangs fight for territory, Tony meets the love of his life, Maria, who is the sister of Bernardo. Mount De Sales junior Maya Nellum played Maria, as she and Tony fall in love and can’t wait to spend their lives together. Unfortunately for Tony, Maria is already engaged to Chino. For those of you literary scholars, West Side Story is obviously a modern twist on the classic story, Romeo & Juliet. As the two star-crossed lovers deal with the affair, it causes conflicts between the gangs. Maria and Tony fight for the freedom to love, while the gangs fight to end the feud once and for all.
As the cast and the crew were preparing for their performances, I had the chance to speak to Mr. Ader, who played the lead role of Tony when he was a student at St. Joe. Mr. Jason Ader, reflecting on his past performances, playing the role occupied by Brennan Hyde, said, “There was a lot of nostalgia watching some of my students play the same part I played 15 years ago…I’m really impressed and it was better than what we did!” Mr. Adam Kauffman, who was also in the show while a student at St. Joe, played the role of Jet member, Baby John. Sophomore Zach Polignone occupied the role this year, which was once filled by Mr. Kauffman. Mr. Kauffman said in the lead-up to the show, “I had a lot of fun in 2003 doing the show, I’m excited to see it. I have many students who are in the show [acting, stage crew, and in the band].
“There was a lot of nostalgia watching some of my students play the same part I played 15 years ago…I’m really impressed and it was better than what we did!” – Mr. Jason Ader
The show was seemingly a great success, as the audiences were overwhelmingly positive in their reception of West Side Story. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, I definitely recommend checking out the link below of all of the photos taken of the show. As a cast member, it was a cool experience playing a role in the production, and something I hope to hold onto, just like Mr. Ader and Mr. Kauffman. The production was led by theater director, Mr. Mike Hartsfield, who has guided this, his 30th show in his 15th year at Mount Saint Joe! As a cast member, I hope you enjoyed the show if you attended one of the performances. If you weren’t able to attend, I hope you come in the fall to see our next production!
To check out the full album of pictures from West Side Story, click here.
Whether you are a fan or not, Shakespeare has somehow found a way to permeate almost every level of pop culture since his lifetime in the early 17th century. And while almost anyone could quote the opening line to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy from Act 3, how many of us actually understand what the great poet actually was saying?
Never fear: with the Mount Saint Joseph Drama team, even those among us most illiterate in the intricacies of early modern English should be able to enjoy the playwright’s shows. Opening November 18 and running through the weekend, Mount Saint Joseph’s rendition of The Tempest is sure to be a riveting experience for anyone.
The story centers on a mysterious isle inhabited by the eccentric wizard Prospero (Senior Stephen Kirby) and his idealistic daughter Miranda (Elena Rittie). Prospero, the former Duke of Milan until his usurping by his own brother, has used his magical spells, as well as the power of his faithful sprite Ariel (Mary Langley), to arouse a storm to shipwreck the boat of the King of Naples (Senior Kyle Watson) upon his island.
In the aftermath of the eponymous tempest, the members of the King’s court – including Prospero’s mischievous brother, Antonio (Senior Alex Scott), and the King’s own shifty brother, Sebastian (Sophomore Marcellus Palmerino) – wander about the isle aimlessly, falling victim to several pranks by Prospero.
Meanwhile, a comedy of errors ensues as two of the King’s drunkard attendants, Stephano (Senior Henry O’Toole) and Trinculo (Senior Connor Hurley), join forces with Prospero’s dissatisfied slave Caliban (Senior William Hartman) to take over the island, getting more and more inebriated along the way.
On top of that, the King’s son Ferdinand (Sophomore Aaron Sutton) and Miranda might have a thing going on, adding to the fun of the show.
In its approximate 105 minute run, The Tempest brings the audience to a world where disbelief is indeed suspended, and in the times when things get confusing, help from various narrators between acts will get you up to speed.
With a stellar cast, a brilliant set design, and direction by the ever-popular Michael Hartsfield of the English Department, The Tempest is sure to be a Shakespeare performance you can enjoy. Performance dates are 11/18 and 11/19 at 7PM and 11/20 at 2PM. Tickets are $8 and concessions and flower and candy grams will be available during intermissions. Come out and see the show.
Article contributed by Connor Hurley ’18. Photos courtesy of Henry O’Toole ’18. For more information, please follow the MSJ Drama Club at @MSJDRAMATWEETS.
Since September, the Mount Saint Joseph Drama Club has been working nearly every day on its fall play, Get Smart. A large cast of students from both MSJ and Mount de Sales Academy are participating in this wacky 60’s classic- “and loving it!” The script of the production follows an elongated version of the pilot episode of the hilarious series, in which the good agents of CONTROL are constantly combating KAOS, the “International Organization of Evil.” What makes the show so outrageously funny is that the protagonist agent’s name, Maxwell Smart (played by Junior Henry O’Toole), couldn’t be more of a misnomer. He is very clumsy and rarely takes his job seriously, much to the annoyance of his cynical boss, the chief of CONTROL (played by Senior Colin Howard). However, with the help of his partner and love interest, agent 99 (played by Mount de Sales student Hannah Angelela), Smart never fails to save the world, thanks to what appears to be pure luck. Filled to the margins with out-of-this-world technology, convoluted schemes, and memorable characters, this staged adaptation is a perfect fit for our energetic club. Directed by Mr. Michael Hartsfield, the secret agent satire of this play is sure to have the audience howling.
Because this year’s play is so interesting and humorous, students should take advantage of the opportunity to attend the performance. The dates for the show are November 20th at 7pm, the 21st at 7pm, and the 22nd at 2pm. Tickets are only $8.00 and can be purchased from the Business Office or from the Box Office before each performance. Come out to support your classmates and have a great laugh at the same time!
Written by Stephen Kirby, Class of 2017.
Check out a few clips from rehearsals and check out the play this weekend!
The Student Newspaper of Mount Saint Joseph High School